Butterfly Party

children-2112668_640They say rules are made for breaking. This year was supposed to be a no party year. For my children I do an alternating year for birthday parties, one year my son will get one and the next my daughter. However, this year my daughter is turning 6 and she has been talking about having a birthday party for MONTHS, literally. So I gave in and said we would have just a few friends and family come and we decided on a Butterfly theme.

THE THEME

Butterflies are a perfect theme for those looking to cost save on a birthday party as well as have a large selection of paraphernalia to choose from. For my daughter’s party we purchased a few things like hanging streamers and edible butterfly wafer paper for the cake but otherwise many things were hand-made. My son spent hours working on painting his own designed giant cardboard butterfly and it was a perfect decoration. For some people looking for inspiration for a butterfly party, I have included some pictures and ideas below. To give your creativity a nudge, check out Pinterest which has a ton of helpful resources. 

THE PARTY

Some ideas for the party:

  • butterfly nets/catchers
  • butterfly wings
  • butterfly wall & window stickers
  • strings with paper butterflies attached to “catch” with nets
  • fruit platter in the shape of a butterfly
  • “butterfly food” labels on snacks
  • napkins folded into butterflies
  • napkins and forks tied together to look like a butterfly
  • for lots of ideas, check out my Pinterest Board: Butterfly Birthday Party.

20643594_10155341297540700_427818676_nFor party favours, try easy diy butterfly candy bags (see pictures below), butterfly wands or headbands (check out Amazon’s party pack), butterfly nets or wings to take home and even butterfly glow sticks (found at most Dollar stores or Amazon). 

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THE CAKE

Last but not least, the cake. Pinterest has SOO many good examples of what you can do to make a butterfly cake. You can even make a butterfly shape out of cupcakes and save yourself a great deal of precious time. Keep in mind that kids will not usually eat very much cake at a birthday party and always try to choose flavour over design. Packaged fondant gives your cake a sleek look but nobody really likes the taste of it. 

I opted for a simple but unique cake design. The layers are made with boxed french vanilla cake mixes with some strawberry jello and/or food colouring mixed in for flavour and colour.  The icing is a simple buttercream icing: butter, icing sugar and heavy cream. For added flavour you can add a tablespoon of fruit reduction to buttercream icing once it has been whipped. In my cake I added a raspberry reduction to the middle layer giving it a refreshing taste and a natural pink colour.

*A tip when you are adding fruit reduction to buttercream icing is to make sure you have very little water in your fruit puree, you want to boil down your fruit puree by at least half the amount of sugar, water and fruit you started with. Too much water in your fruit reduction can separate your buttercream icing. 

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The exterior of the cake has a crumb coat of buttercream icing and a second coat of icing which is smoothed down as much as possible. 

For the butterfly decoration, I chose edible wafer paper butterflies. Amazon really let me down on this one and my order is due to arrive several months after my daughter’s party! Luckily a friend with an edible ink printer saved the day and ran off a sheet of perfect wafer paper butterflies for me. We used a small crafting knife to cut out the butterflies and folded them twice just off centre to give a realistic design.

*A tip for attaching wafer paper or edible paper to a cake is to use a decorating brush to apply a small coat of corn syrup on the back of the paper before applying to your cake. The corn syrup is thin enough to not show through the paper and sticky enough to adhere to fondant or buttercream icing. 

I was very happy with the way the butterfly cake turned out. Never sell yourself short for attempting to make your own cake; a homemade cake LOOKS homemade because it TASTES homemade. 

Butterfly Cake
Edible Butterfly Cake

 

Happy Party Planning!

 

 

Chocolate Chip Muffins

Summer is in full swing at my house. During the school year we reach into the pantry for pre-packaged snacks while on the run but summer allows for a bit more time and effort to go into snacks. I am not sure if my children have even eaten 1 granola bar this summer. Muffins are a quick crowd pleaser in my house and rarely last through the day they are made. DFR1nOBUwAAE4iu

And EVERYONE loves Chocolate Chip Muffins. I would almost go as far as saying that these muffins are even better than…*Tim Hortons*. I know, you might beg to differ, but I am making that claim and unless you try them you will never know!

I have included the link to the web site that I got the recipe from. As much as I like to bake, I am not creative enough at this point to design my own recipes for very many things, and why would I modify a recipe if it is perfect already? So try your hand at some homemade snacks for your children this summer before reaching for those Costco boxes. Enjoy! 

Recipe from Little Sweet Baker: http://www.littlesweetbaker.com/2014/10/03/bakery-style-chocolate-chip-muffins-2/

 

 

Smarties Cookies! WHAT!?! 

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These are so delicious, you need to try them. A couple of tips and tricks:

  • Pat down your cookie balls before baking and add a couple of Smarties to the tops of each one
  • Don’t put too many on a tray, I put 6 or 7 to each tray, they spread out quite a bit!
  1. Cream together 3/4 Cup of White Sugar, 3/4 Cup of Brown Sugar and 1/2 Cup of Margarine or Butter.
  2. Add 1 Whole Egg, 2 Egg Yokes and some Vanilla Extract and mix
  3. Add 1 1/2 Cups of Flour, 1 Tsp Baking Power, 1/4 Tsp Baking Soda and a pinch of Salt and mix until just combined
  4. Add 1 Cup or more of SMARTIES and mix gently
  5. Chill for half an hour
  6. Bake on parchment covered baking sheets in 375 degree oven for 10-12 minutes
  7. Enjoy!

 

And then we were seeing RAINBOWS

Happy Summer! I will admit it has been WAY too long since I have posted anything food related on my blog but I have decided that my most recent creation makes the cut for a new post! This cake is super fun for summer with Jello colours and flavours and the addition of Swiss Meringue buttercream makes it sweetly delicious. For the melt in your mouth buttercream cream recipe I used on my cake check out Tessa Huff’s new cake book “Layered”.

 

Rainbow Cake
Rainbow Cake

To save myself some time and effort I used two white cake mixes for the base divided between five 8″ round cake pans. A cake mix which requires egg whites only instead of a full egg will give you a lighter and more fluffy cake consistency. To each 8″ round cake, I added 3 tbsp of Jello powder and  6 or 7 drops of food colouring of different colours. The Jello not only adds colour but also gives each cake layer a distinct fruit flavour; one reviewer commented that the results tasted like eating bowl of Fruit Loops! Although each cake mix is supposed to make just two 8″ pans I was able to easily spread out the mix from two boxes to make five 8″rounds.

 

Rainbow Cake Inside 2

To separate each cake layer when building the cake I used a thin layer of Cool Whip. Because I iced the outside of the cake with buttercream I did not want a thick layer of anything between each cake layer. Cool Whip provided just enough “stick” to keep the layers together and give a thin white line between colours. Some other options I considered using between the layers of the cake were chocolate fudge or jam. Chocolate fudge would look really great when making a darker or more vibrant cake with deeper colours such as blue, red and green.  All in all,                                                                            a half of a container of Cool Whip was sufficient for this cake.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream

For the outside, just have fun with the decorations. I opted for a no fondant look and did my best to make the buttercream as smooth as possible on the outside before applying any sprinkles.

Best of luck with anyone trying out this style of cake. It is super fun to make and to eat and will definitely WOW your guests.

Rainbow Cake Piece Rainbow Cake Inside

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And Then You Could Always Put Your Potatoes in the Dishwasher: The Thanksgiving Table

Meringue Ghosts
Meringue Ghosts

Thanksgiving has creeped up fast this year, at least for me it has. I have been quickly thrust into baking all things Fall and all things Halloween. October always seems to be the month that I have a ton of treats to provide, between birthday parties, class bake sales, class parties to Thanksgiving and Halloween; I end up feeling overbooked. There is also so much to choose from for Fall ingredients, so many choices. I have put a “Halloween Treats” section on my blog with some of the goodies I have made so far this October, if you need any recipes just send me a quick message. 

I have been searching through Thanksgiving ideas and came across a great article titled “19 Thanksgiving Hacks to Make Hosting the Holiday A Breeze” some of the points are super creative; I think my favourite (and I need to remember this) is using tongs to crimp the pie crust edge, something I never would have thought of. Although, putting potatoes in the dishwasher to get cleaned would probably never happen in my house.

Thanksgiving Turkey
Thanksgiving Turkey

I would love to hear what Thanksgiving meals in other people’s families look like. Do you always cook a Turkey? Is it slow baked, deep-fried, BBQ’d or even topped with bacon? What sort of side dishes are a must have? In our family, I would say Turkey and stuffing are usually a staple along with pumpkin pies or tarts and most definitely a lot of coffee and treats. Do you usually have a lot of hands in the kitchen or does one person typically end up doing most of the cooking?

And what sort of beverages do you typically serve up for this holiday? Is it too early for Eggnog in your family? I went to buy some eggnog the other day and the cashier was AMAZED that it would be sold anytime before mid-November and she wasn’t sure how she felt about it coming out so early in the year. For my family, as soon as we can get our hands on a carton of eggnog there are yummy latte’s being made with it (although my personal preference is “light” eggnog when I can find it).

Brynn Fall WalkAnd my final question, what sort of after the meal activities do you do with your family? We like to go for walks and enjoy the pretty Fall colours or watch the kids play a game of soccer or football. I think whatever your family does, it is just fun to get to spend time together while enjoying some good meals and family activities.  

Happy Thanksgiving!

And Then I’m Only Seeing Orange

Fall is definitely my favourite seasons and I’m not just saying that because its September! I love the cooler air for going for walks and the changing of the leaves. I have also come to appreciate baking with pumpkin and am learning to finesse my approach to using pumpkin as an ingredient. So far this Fall I have made pumpkin pie, pumpkin cupcakes and today I made Pumpkin shortbread cookies (which don’t REALLY qualify as they do not contain any actual pumpkin).

Here are some of my creations and the recipes I used….

http://www.chatelaine.com/recipe/thanksgiving/pumpkin-cupcakes-with-maple-and-bacon-icing/
http://www.chatelaine.com/recipe/thanksgiving/pumpkin-cupcakes-with-maple-and-bacon-icing/

Pumpkin Cupcakes: YUM. The only adjustment I made to the recipe from Chatelain Magazine was that I didn’t sprinkle any bacon bits on top of the icing. Be forewarned though that the resulting cupcakes are more “muffin” like than light and fluffy like a typical cupcake. The icing MAY be one of the best I have made….and fore sure don’t omit the maple syrup in the icing.

Pumpkin Pie
http://www.landolakes.com/recipe/2923/classic-pumpkin-pie

Pumpkin Pie: this is always a hit and miss for me. Sometimes my pumpkin recipes are awesome and sometimes they are just so so. I have tried a new recipe this time and so far so good. I did add a bit of Tenderflake to the crust recipe (about an 1/8 Cup) just to give it a super flakey crust. Those who know me well, know that I rarely use anything other than an all-butter crust. A recommendation from a friend is that you should always let your pumpkin pie sit for a day as it allows the flavours to develop and tastes better on day 2.

Pumpkin Cookies
http://www.canadianliving.com/food/shortbread_snowflakes.php http://www.canadianliving.com/food/basic_shortbread_cookie_dough.php

Pumpkin Shortbread Cookies: For a cheap 99¢ I picked up a pumpkin cookie cutter this year because it seems like in October I am constantly needing a dozen treats to bring to different events. This is my GO-TO recipe for all shaped cookies that will need to be decorated in coloured icing. I find the recipe for the shortbread cookie itself to need less flour than the recipe recommends and use 1 1/2 cups to make the dough and usually use the other half a cup of leftover flour on the counter when rolling out the dough. I also find this dough easier to work with when it is first made rather than letting it cool in the fridge for the recommended half hour, but I have made the cookies both ways and they turn out the same. For the icing, add as much or as little milk as desired to get the consistency you like. A little goes a long way with the icing and I tend to make too much and have a lot left over. P.S. I always use parchment for these cookies and only bake until they just begin to brown. If you see a lot of brown they are overcooked as shortbread cookies set up quickly and don’t really need to be browned on the edges.

A blog post of Fall wouldn’t be complete without a couple of fun Pumpkin Patch pictures of my kids from this Fall 🙂

Pumpkin patch 3 Pumpkin patch 4

Happy 2nd Anniversary to my blog!

Brynns Birthday 5 Brynns birthday 4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy 2nd Anniversary to my food blog “Even A Brat Can Cook”. August is also the month for birthdays in my family which usually means a very planned deluxe cake for either my husband or daughter or occasionally both. This year the theme was Ballet as my daughter will be entering her first year of ballet lessons.

Brynns Birthday Cake FinishedUnfortunately, the weather is ALWAYS warm on the August long weekend where we live and I often run into problems keeping cake icing whipped and fondant flat. I often learn a few tips and tricks with cakes each time I make them so I wanted to share this time in case someone else finds themselves facing similar problems. SO read on if you want to make some super awesome buttercream icing  and/or homemade fondant.

Icing….

You always have to have great icing. To me at least, I’m happy to scrape off fondant but it is really disappointing when you get to the middle of a cake and its sugar overload. I steer towards alternative options for cake icing and cupcake icing. Whipping cream icing is yummy and great for cupcakes but won’t always hold up if you have a multi-tiered cake. Cream cheese icing gives a nice creamy texture but isn’t the flavour you want for every cake. My daughter’s favourite fruit is strawberries so this year I opted for a strawberry buttercream filling and just a plain buttercream for the outside of the cake.

The first lesson I learned with this cake is that WHITE CHOCOLATE will fix separated icingI have a tendency to make things ahead and my icing never looks as good and whipped as it does before I put it in the fridge. When you take your buttercream icing out of the fridge to decorate your cake, make sure you give it plenty of time to come back to room temperature and then whip it for a few minutes to see if it comes back to its original texture. If it doesn’t and still looks a bit separated (butter from sugar) then add two squares of melted white chocolate to the icing. It’s totally like magic. Trust me you’ll be glad to have this little technique it will come in handy.

For strawberry buttercream, you need to first make a strawberry puree. Basically take a small container of strawberries and blend until smooth and then strain out the seeds. Place the blended strawberries in a pot and reduce down to by at least half – for mine I used a small container of strawberries and ended up with 3/4 a cup of puree. Chill until after you have made your buttercream icing or freeze for later use.

Here is a simple flour based buttercream icing; it worked great for me:  http://thetoughcookie.com/2015/06/07/how-to-make-flour-buttercream-or-ermine-buttercream-the-battle-of-the-buttercreams-2-0/

After your buttercream is whipped to perfection, add in 1/4 cup of your strawberry puree. For my cake, I doubled the buttercream icing recipe and added the strawberry puree to half of it. That gave me strawberry for the inside and white for the outside of the cake.

Fondant…

My father-in-law asked me to describe what fondant is exactly and the best description I could come up with was “edible playdough”. I have never actually used store-bought fondant so it might be better to handle than the homemade stuff. For this cake I used Marshmallow Fondant and added the pink food coloring to the melted marshmallows before adding the icing sugar so the color got more evenly distributed.

The second lesson I learned with this cake is that VEGETABLE SHORTENING works best as a non-stick surface for rolling fondant. After attempting to use icing sugar as base to roll out my fondant, I quickly learned it dries out the fondant, dulls the color and leaves powdery white on your decorations. My second attempt was using Tenderflake (it’s all I had) and covering the surface of my counter with it and my hands before attempting to make any shapes. The lard helps keep the fondant pliable and keep its color once it is put on the cake. You will have less chances of your fondant drying out and cracking when you use lard. Too much of a good thing though and you’ll find your fondant won’t keep its shape so use the lard sparingly. 

Marshmallow Fondant: 4 Cups of marshmallows mixed with 2 tbsp of water and melted in the microwave. Mix the melted marshmallows until smooth and then add 4 cups of icing sugar. Mix with a spatula until the mixture comes together and then knead on greased counter top (with greased hands) until a soft smooth dough forms. *Dont get discouraged, your hands will get very sticky and it will seem like you failed but then wash your hands and keep kneading and you’ll be surprised at how quickly you make a nice ball of smooth fondant. Keeps well if you cover in plastic wrap and then in a ziplock and refrigerate. Make sure to take your fondant out of the fridge a half hour or so before you plan to use it.  

Attaching the fondant to the cake was another learning curve but I quickly figured it out. The third lesson I learned with this cake is you can make your own fondant glue by dissolving a small ball of fondant in a tiny but of lukewarm water. I didn’t use anything special to attach the fondant decorations, just a cleaned kids paintbrush and homemade fondant glue. 

Brynns Birthday 6

That is all I have for this one, but feel free to ask any other questions you might have about my cake creation.

 

 

 

P.S. I MAY have used half a container of toothpicks on this project…

Brynns Birthday Cake Construction Brynns Birthday Cake Construction 2